The Re-narrated Chinese Myth: Comparison of Three Abridgments of Journey to the West on Paratextual Analysis

Yuan Tao, Chonglong Gu

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Over the past century, the hundred-chaptered Chinese classic Xiyou ji ( Journey to the West ) has been abridged into English many a time, with the three most influential versions translated by Timothy Richard (Wu, 1913), Arthur Waley (Wu, 1942), and Anthony Yu (Wu, 2006), respectively. On the basis of paratextual analysis and the narrative theory, this article explores the diachronic reframing of the three English abridgments of the Chinese classic. It is found that the three versions keep the basic structure of the ST, presenting the monkey as the dominant hero of the book. However, the translators reposition the genre: Richard takes the classic as an epic and allegory, Waley as a folk tale, and Yu as an allegory and religious syncretism. Accordingly, the narrative is reframed under different paratextual elements. Richard reframes the novel as a Christian counterpart of the mission to heaven, Waley a folk tale compounded with religious, historical, and sarcastic elements, and Yu the karma and redemption of the monkey and the monk. Furthermore, the three versions also help construct the book’s narrative accrual in the West, popularizing the Chinese religious fantasy with a monkey’s story. The stereoscopic reading of the abridgments illustrates that the renarration helps popularize Chinese mythology, religion and culture to the Western readers. Thus, the narrative accrual of a religious allegory is constructed in the West, which is conducive to enhance the status of Chinese novel.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTranslation Horizons
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

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